A representative for Ara George Zobayan, the pilot who was flying the helicopter that crashed into a Southern California hillside and killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, is now claiming that the passengers were responsible for the accident, TMZ reports.
Zobayan, a 50-year-old Armenian who was among the victims of the crash, is being sued along with his company, Island Express, by Vanessa Bryant — wife of Kobe and mother of Gianna. According to Zobayan’s representative, the respected pilot bears no fault for the deadly crash.
“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility.”
The lawsuit does not detail how the passengers were negligent and in what way they assumed risk, which TMZ claims typically falls to the pilot in control of the aircraft.
As noted by TMZ, the fog and reduced visibility on the day of the crash was so significant that it pushed the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to ground their fleets. In addition, Zobayan allegedly had to circle Griffith Park area for 15 minutes before it was purportedly safe enough to head north to Mamba Academy — Kobe Bryant’s sports training facility.
Kawhi called Kobe’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, a “good dude” and used him to fly to and from games. He also discussed if this gives him any pause to keep using helicopters. pic.twitter.com/ao82V555h8
— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) January 29, 2020
As reported by the New York Daily News, the wrongful death lawsuit accuses Zobayan of failing to properly assess and monitor the weather prior to takeoff on the day of the crash. The suit also claims that Zobayan knew of the “cloudy conditions” that increased the flight risk but did not abort the flight.
“Defendant Island Express is vicariously liable for any and all actions of Ara George Zobayan, including his negligent and careless piloting and operation of the subject helicopter,” the lawsuit reads.
Zobayan previously violated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules back in 2015, which led to a reprimand. That incident allegedly stemmed from Zobayan’s decision to cross busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport against the orders of air traffic control. It’s unclear if Zobayan was flying with passengers at the time of the violation.
According to the FAA report, Zobayan admitted his mistake and took responsibility for his decision. The report also claims that there were “no indications” at the time that the violation was part of a larger pattern of Zobayan’s flight behavior.